What do residents of the United States have in abundance? In supermarkets and food outlets, Americans have easy access to ultraprocessed foods prepared using industrial techniques; for example, soft drinks and candies, instant noodles and powdered soups, various “nuggets” and pre-prepared meats, and pizza dishes.

These types of food make meals cheap and convenient, but they can lead to overeating and weight gain and may contribute to metabolic syndrome and chronic disease, write researchers reporting in Current Treatment Options in Gastroenterology. Their review of food trends attributed the most weight gain to ultraprocessed foods such as potato chips, sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts, refined grains, and processed meats. Weight loss or less weight gain was associated with eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The authors suggest that ultraprocessed foods in our diets contribute to obesity and chronic disease.

A separate study published in JAMA Internal Medicine linked eating ultraprocessed foods to type 2 diabetes, based on an examination of data reported by 104,707 people, mostly women (79.2%). The participants, whose average age was 42.7 years at the start of the study, recorded their eating habits and health conditions over 6 years. After adjusting for comorbidities and weight change, the researchers concluded that a higher intake of ultraprocessed foods was consistently associated with a risk of type 2 diabetes.

Fitness participants in midlife may already be at risk for type 2 diabetes since this age group represents 14.3% of the 30.2 million Americans with diagnosed/undiagnosed diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In many cases, type 2 diabetes is related to lifestyle choices (sedentary living, overweight, hypertension, high cholesterol) that can be modified with a structured wellness and fitness plan.

The take-home message is consistent: Encourage clients to eat whole foods, emphasizing vegetables, fruit and fiber—and make the same choices yourself.